Written By: Natalie Baer
The Statue of Liberty, the Sydney Opera House, and the Tower of London are just three of the 136 world heritage sites that could end up being under water, as polar ice continues to melt and sea levels rise due to warming temperate caused by climate change.
According to a study published in Environmental Research Letters, if temperatures increase by 3oC by the end of the 21st century, one fifth of the world’s most important historical sites could end up under water.
While some sites may not be lost to flooding and sea level rise for another 2,000 years, the model projects that some of them will be lost within the 21st century. According to the latest IPCC science report, if greenhouse gases are not reduced, Earth’s oceans could rise by almost a meter by the end of the century.
“The global average temperature has already increased by 0.8 degrees compared to pre-industrial levels”, says Anders Levermann, lead author of the report. “If our greenhouse gas emissions increase as they have in the past, physical models project a global warming of up to five degrees by the end of this century.”
Results also show that the displacement of people living in coastal areas across the Caribbean and Southeast Asia would also be likely, threatening the many cultures and traditions found there.
“A majority of [these people] will eventually need to leave their home islands, so most of their culture could be entirely lost … if the warming trend is not stopped”, says Ben Marzeion, one of the scientists participating in the study.
The 136 threatened sites include, among others, the leaning tower of Pisa, Westminster Abbey, Venice, and Independence Hall. In addition, many low-lying coastal cities, including Naples, Istanbul, Bruges, and St. Petersburg will be in danger of flooding.